I have an M3A with the gold phono boards. I use a Denon DL103 with the ruby cantilever retip from Soundsmith. Sounds great to me. I do not know if the circuit differs at all in the M3B.
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I have a Modulus 3A with Gold phono board. The gold phono board is all fet designed by John Curl and is very similar to the sound of the Vendetta phono preamp. The Gold phono board adds about 20db of gain to the signal, then it passes through the M3B tube phono preamp. I use it with a ZU/Denon DL103. The sound is to die for.
I also have a Modulus 3B in my main system and the sound of the 3B is light years ahead of the 3A. It is much quieter, has greater bandwidth and the sound is much more relaxed and analog sounding. I am using a Dynavector 20xl low output mc cartridge on this preamp with a Denon AU320 step up transformer. I must say that the gold phono board on my Modulus3A sounds better than using the Denon SUT. The tube phono preamp on both units are very satisfactory. Both phono preamps are very quiet using the Ultra low noise 6h23neb tubes from Audible Illusions. I have to put the preamp volume 3/4 of the way up before I hear even the slightest amount of hiss with my 89db efficient speakers.
The L3 is just the line portion of the M3B preamp, it only uses 2 tubes instead of 4. Everything else is the same. If you do not have a turntable, get the L3 instead.
The 3B is a fantastic preamp. Much quieter and dynamic than the 3A I traded in to Audible Illusions. If you don't care about remote control and don't mind twisting two volume knobs, it is an easy to love product.
Unfortunately, I waited more than four months for mine when I was told I could expect it in two to three weeks. During the ever-lengthening waiting period, I got impatient and went solid state with much more flexibility (like remote and adjustable input impedance for the MC phono stage). Sold the 3B within a week of its very delayed arrival.
In my system, the volume control is usually around 11 o'clock which gives me levels in the 85-88db range. To really get it loud, I can go up to a little past 2 o'clock on the volume controls. On the 3B, they seem to have more of the in-between steps. All I know is my system really bloomed after replacing the M3A with the M3B. The M3A is now in my upstairs system which I am listening to as I post this.
The L-3 is the best sounding preamp AI has come up with yet and I have owned them all. I have always been an AI fan for what they do and the price they sell it for. It is not exactly the same linesatge as the M3b but has been refined somewhat. The power supply has been modified. I have owned mine for about 6 months and can say without reservation, it is one of the best sounding line stages I have heard. I replaced an Aesthetix Calypso because L-3 was more open, quieter and through up a bigger soundstage. It was flat out more transparent and quicker. For a tube preamp, it is unbelievably quiet.
A phono board is optional.
I have been using the L-3 for about a year now and my opinion has not changed. I compared it to a couple of "Class A Stereophile" solid state preamps (Ayre K5xemp and Parasound JC2) and it came away as the hands down winner. It is just so open and presents so naturally.
I do believe the L-3 is AI's top of the line currently. It is within a couple of hundred dollars of the M3b and has been tweaked somewhat. No phono is included. It is optional. It does come with a remote that allows very fine adjustment of volume and the input level controls are stepped, precicion attenuators. So much better than in the past.
Just a superb, well built preamp that sounds as good as anything I have heard. It has performed flawlessly in the time I have had it and is dead quiet. Tubes seem to really last with this one.
Here is the BIG QUESTION:
AI Modulus are notorious for high gain making volume adjustments very hard to make - you can 'use up' the volume pot by 8:30. Now that it has stepped pots you get into the 'one click too loud, one too low' problem.
So what's the deal with the line stage? It has a remote control so that's got to be 'non stepped'. And since the L3 is designed for 'line level' inputs does it NOT HAVE THE CRAZY HIGH GAIN of the 3B?
Please, can anyone answer this question for me? How ARE the volume controls on the L3???????
I own an L3. It has a single-knob master volume potentiometer that is unstepped, motor driven and can be positioned with the remote. The L3 also has "right" and "left" separate stepped attenuators that are not controlled by the remote, but are "set and forget" controls for overall gain (or, more accurately, attenuation) and channel balance. The steps sound to me to be about 2dB apart. The master volume is a stereo 50k Alps pot of very high laser trimmed quality.
The raw gain of the unit is about 30dB, as in earlier units, but by using the stepped attenuators to set overall level and balance, control of volume with the master volume pot is very smooth and refined. I estimate my attenuation is set to about -15dB with the stepped attenuators and another 20dB with the master volume control. I am running a moving magnet cartridge (4mV output at 5cm/sec) into an ARC PH3 phono stage(54 dB gain) which is really hot. Still, with the L3, no problem. I have very fine control of volume.
This is an extremely refined preamplifier, and the problem with too much gain with the AI mod 3 and 3a units has been solved with this AI line stage arrangement
I am waiting 4+ months for my L3 line stage... I hope it's worth the wait! I purchased it under the factory exchange program, giving up my excellent and trouble free 16 year old Mod 3A. If the 3A had a remote volume, I would have kept it at least another 16 years. Has anyone else had similar delivery delays recently?
I like some audible IIIlusion's product's, to tell you the truth here, I am surprised they are still in bussiness after all these years!, I will also say, they do have a bad turn around on anything, however, they do last for years, a small outfit such as this has comprimises, some may believe it is worth it, if you have the patience, it is!
AI's turn around time is terrible. I purchased an L3 from them last year and waited about 4+ months for delivery and I am only 60 miles from the factory (not that it matters)
however the L3 is a great pre and worth the wait. It is very adjustable wrt gain as mentioned earlier. Just make sure you use the recommended tubes as it will eat lesser ones.
Hi Stereo5. I was reading an old thread you had with Princebaba, a director at Audible Illusions who stated a 3B Line was avalable as exchange for 3A or outright for around $1850 refurbished or also new. I live in the UK and have a 3A which I love, that said, if the 3B is better, how do I get hold of one outright? I don't use the phono stage of my 3A so the line version would be perfect. Thank you. Ian
4+months, in since February?!?!?! Hmm, lets see does this sound familiar?
We're backed up in manufacturing our new product and we had to put repairs and upgrades on hold.
We ran out of the parts needed to complete the work on your unit and it will be a few weeks before our order is filled.
Because our original vendor for those parts went out of business we're looking for another vendor.
We've found another vendor but its going to be at least few weeks before our order is filled but the new parts will be better than the originals.
I'm ashamed to say you're not the first to suffer this flim flam and sadden by the fan boys who turn a blind eye and continue to tout these products. The fact is there are any number of products at this price point that provide a similar level or better performance and support.
Audible Illusions continues to experience long delays in delivering their products. I ordered an M3B in late December 2015, the final payment was solicited (and paid) in late January - when I was told that the preamp was "on the bench" by Jerry at AI. The only thing on the bench, as far as I can tell, was my cash. I feel like I am getting the run around everytime I call AI. I just called AI for the 6th time since ordering the preamp only to be told that they are out of tubes and are waiting for the delivery of Swiss switches and that they have no idea when they are coming in. "But don’t worry you will get your preamp soon." I miss dealing directly with Art Ferris who is a heck of a nice guy and a straight shooter ( as well as and audio engineering genius). I’ve happily owned a Modulus 1, 2 and 3, but I am very close to demanding my money back and buying from the competition. I hear the PrimaLuna DiaLogue Premium Preamplifier is pretty good.
You should have spoken with GC Audio in Texas. He probably had one in stock to sell. It is definitely well worth the wait but at this point, I would demand my money back. I posted a "want to buy" here and scored a 6 month old M3B in silver. I have been using it since 2012 with not even a hiccup or fart from it. I re-tubed it in 2015 with the AI recommended tubes. It blows away my previous M3 and M3A preamps. And no, I'm not a fanboy as I hate the dual stepped volume controls but put up with them because the sound is extremely natural in my system.
After a more than five month wait for an M3A upgrade I sent them a registered letter demanding them to return my check and the preamplifier in whatever condition it was in. Seven working days later I received the unit completely upgraded and sold it here the following week.
During my initial conversation they said the upgrade was a night and day improvement, it wasn't, and that they had all the parts needed and it would be completed within two weeks.
What was a truly a night and day improvement was the Bruce Moore preamplifier I auditioned for a week that the M3A appeared to be modeled after.